Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tonight I managed to put into words something that has been rattling around in my head since I lost my Abba 6 weeks ago.  I could not figure out why I came home so much more at peace than when I left.  In the last 6 weeks I have gone off all the anti depressants I was taking.  All the anti anxieties- and even while I was at the funeral and shiva I never took any extra doses for anxiety attacks and I would have assumed that I would have needed more than normal not less.  I took my bare minimum dose to avoid withdrawal while I was gone.

I think I said before that there was something about finally being able to grieve, for both people I lost (even though only one was "official") had a cathartic effect.  But as I get a little further away from that week, and my brain starts to clear from the drug fog of the last 10 months, I realize it was not being allowed to grieve.  It was the prescribed process for grieving that did it.

When you first hear of a close death it is like a sharp punch to the gut.  You can't breath.  The world starts to reel and, even if you knew it was imminent, it feels like the most unexpected news in the world.  I felt like I had just had the floor pulled out from under my feet.

I cried the entire plane ride.  Then I saw my family and I cried some more.  Sobbed my way to through the funeral and was so numb during the burial I barely remember it.  I remember going back into the house and feeling like I would never be happy again.

But through shiva we were kept busy.  I look back at it now and I realize slowly we went from crying to laughing.  At first it was the delirious laughter of emotional relief when have just been too sad for too long, but eventually it became real laughter..  Remembering the good things.  Relaxing.  Numbing.  Not forgetting, but letting all the other people help you find a way to put the sad into a box in your head you could hide for a bit.  Not for very long, but long enough to know that you were not going to keep over from it.

And that is the thing.  I looked up at the end of shiva and could not believe it had been a week since that first horrible pain.  I had made it through a week.  Now I needed to concentrate on getting through the next stage.  If I could make it a week could I make it a month?

We got to the one month point and again it was marked by family and friends.  I still burst into tears at random.  But it is not that kick you in the stomach and pull your heart out of your chest pain all the time.  when I first start to cry yes, but it quickly moves back to the dull ache with happier memories.

Leads to believe that those who set out the rituals of mourning might have known a thing or two after all.  But then how was I so let down in February?

I am no rabbi.  No talmid chacham or even lay leader.  But I am a woman in the 21st century who buried a child at birth.  And, while it was once common, it is thankfully not anymore.  Seems to me that halacha dealt with life as it was understood at the time.  Losing a parent was tragic.  There was a need to prescribe a set ritual to deal with that loss.  Losing a child at birth was common.  Getting over it quickly and getting pregnant again was the only ritual needed.

The more I think about it, the more it seems true of most halacha.  what was common at the time is dealt with- mostly fairly well.  But somewhere along the line Judaism got stuck.  For whatever the reason somewhere after the great rationalists and men of science like Rambam, the Abarbanel, and their ilk, halacha stopped keeping up with modern science, medicine and technology and just froze.  Whether it had to do with a (often very justified) fear of the outside, or more of a needing to stay the same or risk being lost among the nations, or both for that matter does not really make much of a difference.  For whatever the reason halacha just seemed to stop progressing.

It seems to me that it was this that created the eventual backlash that started with really started Shimshon Refael Hirch and led to splitting Judaism into it's more modern streams in an attempt to forge ritual that included modern knowledge.

We all know I follow the rules.  All of them.  Most of them even in private.  I am not sure if it is out of habit or comfort or what, but I do.  On the other hand I have seriously questioned my belief in God over the past year.  I think I am starting to lean towards a comment I heard once, "It is not God I hate, it is some of his interpreters."  What I don't think I believe in anymore is a community that is so insular, so scared of secular society that it stops progressing and because of that leaves people effected by modern advances stuck in the dark.

Does this way of thinking automatically take me out of "Orthodox" realms?  I have no idea.  It might.  Frankly I live in a city where various groups claiming to be "Orthodox" are the lunatics running the asylum.  But just because they claim to be as orthodox as it comes does not mean they are.  If orthodoxy is about lighting candles and keeping kosher than I am in and so are they.  If it is about thought, ideology, progression, etc. than I am not sure any of us really fit he bill.


  1. You seem to have changed so much in recent weeks. I almost breathe my own sigh of relief reading about this recent progress. I hope that you find a forum of people willing to listen - those that can demand change, and those that have the power to facilitate change.

  2. Don't kid yourself. This is my forum. Have you seen what is going on locally around here? Geez. I am thinking about fleeing! change comes from grocery stores and that is IT.

  3. Rachel - you have hit on something that has been a topic of discussion at my house for years. The fact that Judaism has not kept up with the times is something that saddens me. While your examples are extreme (the loss of a child) mine are silly and annoying. I don't understand why we as Ashkenazi cannot eat kitnyot on Pesach. We are no longer an ignorant, illiterate society who cannot tell the difference between wheat and corn or other forbidden foods. The whole chicken is meat because people might get confused then about beef and other red meats. The list goes on but it is a real issue. The Conservative Movement is losing people by the droves because it has not kept up with the times while the Reform Movement swells because it does keep up with the times. I cannot speak about the Orthodox. I wish there was a way for our small voices to be heard but I fear that there isn't.

  4. I honestly have no idea of orthodoxy is growing or not. I assume certain sections are- if 2 people have 10 children and few people leave it would seem they have no other option but to grow in numbers.

    I think if the conservative movement is losing members it is also because they have not dug in on a firm position. I know a lot of people who went orthodox from conservative because they felt like it was just not giving them enough, and they wanted more.

    I once heard a reform Rabbi say there are only 2 types of Jews, those who take it seriously, and those who don't. A woman took her to task on it and said "no, there are 2 types of Jews, those who will have Jewish grandchildren and those who won't". Seems a silly argument, but practically there is a huge difference. One can only be judged in hindsight.

    As much as I can put my finger on what is bothering me, I suspect people even a few generations back might not have been able to see the huge divides coming.